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Educational gifts for kids you just can’t tear away from their computers

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(Image credit: Lucky Business / Shutterstock)

Parents know that sometimes, it’s better to give in and let them have their beloved devices just to keep the peace. If you’re struggling to pry those devices from your kids’ clammy little hands, why not use it to your (or rather, their) advantage instead? 

Just because they’ve won this battle for the privilege of technology, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent. There are better and easier ways to win the war. Screen time doesn’t always mean a complete waste of time, and there are ways to use it productively so that everyone gets what they want. 

These ten extremely educational games and toys below are only a few of the best ways to turn that screen time around into learning time, and they’ll make for amazing gifts this holiday season.

Don’t worry; there’s no danger here of the kids opening their gifts come Christmas morning and being disappointed. We made sure that the educational gifts on this holiday gift guide are just as fun and entertaining as they are informational.

Fire 8 Kids Edition Tablet

(Image credit: Amazon)

Fire 8 Kids Edition Tablet

One-stop shop for media consumption

Specifications
Best for: Preschoolers and gradeschoolers
Reasons to buy
+Loaded with content from subscription+Rugged build
Reasons to avoid
-Unimpressive specs

You can’t always protect kids from harmful content they’ll come across on the internet. Luckily, devices like the Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet are designed specifically with kids’ safety in mind. This Amazon tablet not only comes with loads of kid-friendly content (most of which are educational and entertaining), via the free 1-year subscription of Amazon Kids+, but its parental controls are also very easy to use for non-tech savvy parents. Plus, it comes in a kid-proof case, so it’s built to last.

Osmo Genius Kit for iPad

(Image credit: Osmo)

Osmo Genius Kit for iPad

STEM for kids

Specifications
Best for: Gradeschoolers
Reasons to buy
+Great games+Games are challenging enough
Reasons to avoid
-Non-compatible with older iPads

Now’s the best time to gently nudge our mini-mes into the wonderful world of STEM, and the Osmo Genius Kit for iPad might just be the best way to get them interested. It’s chockfull of simple mathematical equations, creative problem-solving puzzles, and physics problems. It’ll even teach them spelling, vocabulary, and drawing skills. Complete with tangram puzzle pieces, number and word tiles, and five game apps, this will keep the kids occupied all the way through New Years Day and beyond.

Kerbal Space Program

(Image credit: Squad)

Kerbal Space Program

Learn physics via engaging gameplay

Specifications
Best for: Tweens and teens
Reasons to buy
+Applies actual principles of physics and aerodynamics+Fun and entertaining
Reasons to avoid
-Challenging enough to be frustrating

You won’t be able to tear your video game addicted tweens and teens away from the PC with the Kerbal Space Program. This indie game may look like any engaging title out there, letting players take control of a space facility, guiding scientists and astronauts to build and launch a spaceship. 

However, it’s actually pretty challenging, utilizing real-life principles of physics and aerodynamics, which players need to understand for the success of the space program. It’s just as fun and entertaining as it is educational.

Opus Magnum

(Image credit: Zachtronics)

Opus Magnum

Where alchemy, engineering and imagination meet

Specifications
Best for: Teen
Reasons to buy
+Encourages collaboration+Beautiful game with a compelling story
Reasons to avoid
-They might never want to stop playing

A lot of games tend to be linear adventures or hack-and-slash affairs that leave little exploration of one’s own creativity, but that isn’t the case with Opus Magnum. It’s an open-ended puzzler set in a world where alchemy and engineering are entwined. 

And, it invites teens to build transmutation machines that create alchemical processes. While there are targets for building these machines, players can improve upon them in any way they see fit, which is just the ticket for encouraging their imagination.

Botzees AR Coding Robot for Kids

(Image credit: Botzees)

Botzees AR Coding Robot for Kids

Learn to code, learn to build

Specifications
Best for: Gradeschoolers
Reasons to buy
+Great for learning coding+Nice intro to AR
Reasons to avoid
-Your device needs ARKit or ARCore support

Combining robotics with creativity and imagination, the award-winning Botzees AR Coding Robot for Kids not only lets kids build their own robot, but also allows them to play up to 30 games and solve puzzles with its help via augmented reality (AR). 

Heck, it’ll even teach them coding concepts, as well as to appreciate the value of build things with your own hands. It’s the perfect present under the tree, whether you’ve got kids who are interested in science or tots who love to create. 

Smart Circuits

(Image credit: SmartLab)

Smart Circuits

For future engineers

Specifications
Best for: Kids 8 and up
Reasons to buy
+Terrific teaching tool+Hours of educational fun
Reasons to avoid
-Wires a bit flimsy

Got your hands full with the budding electrical or computer engineer in the family? The Smart Circuits science kit will keep your little tinkerer entertained for hours with its modular system of lights, sounds, and sensors. 

It comes with 48 pieces of batteries, LED lights, buttons, jumper wires, and tilt switches, as well as a 48-page illustrated manual packed with fun projects that are easy enough for kids 8 and up. Thanks to this kit, your child might be building their own PC or robot before they even hit puberty.

Piper Computer Kit

(Image credit: Piper Store)

Piper Computer Kit

Building your own PC has never been this easy

Specifications
Best for: Kids 8 and older
Reasons to buy
+Comes with a display, speaker and mouse+Can be a family activity
Reasons to avoid
-No keyboard

The Raspberry Pi, among the best PCs out there, was originally designed to encourage kids to code. With the Piper Computer Kit, however, kids can go even further by learning to and actually building their own PC. This science kit might be a little pricier than most offerings on this gift guide, but it’s definitely worth the splurge. 

It even has a 9-inch screen, a DIY integrated speaker, and a rechargeable battery – all of which the kids can fit themselves in its natural wood chassis. It also comes with 11 coding projects so they can build their own games right after.

LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox

(Image credit: LEGO)

LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox

Robotics for the older kids

Specifications
Best for: Gradeschoolers
Reasons to buy
+5 different projects+Excellent for logic and problem-solving
Reasons to avoid
-App is finicky

While the Botzees AR Coding Robot is great for younger kids, the LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox is best suited for tweens and teens interested in STEM (and robotics, specifically). 

Thanks to its 847 LEGO pieces, five multi-functional robot designs to choose from, and the LEGO Boost app to code and control them, building this robotic kit might just be the perfect way to spend Christmas morning with your STEM-loving kids.

Minecraft

(Image credit: Mojang Studios)

Minecraft

A game that stirs the imagination and inspires exploration

Specifications
Great for: Gradeschoolers and older
Reasons to buy
+Available for Chromebook+Infinite play
Reasons to avoid
-Requires a lot of patience

Minecraft needs no introduction. As a global phenomenon, the game has inspired countless souls to build their own little slice of heaven. 

Whether it’s building your own village, competing or cooperating with other players, or recreating scenes or entire sets from movies (as more than a few have done), this sandbox game offers endless fun and exploration. And, it'll let kids take the tools of the game as far as their imagination can take them. 

Michelle Rae Uy

Michelle Rae Uy is a Los Angeles-based editor, writer and photographer with a bad case of wanderlust. She is a regular contributor for Thrillist, TravelAge West, HuffPo Travel, Paste Magazine, and Travel Pulse. She has written for publications like Nylon, Fodor's and SmarterTravel, and is also the contributing editor for MiniTime.com.